When You’re too Depressed to Stay in School

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I spent five years kind of confused in university. I could easily say they were wasted, but the last five years have witnessed the biggest personal growth of my life thus far.

When this blog first started, I wrote that I was frozen with fear about dropping out of school. I nearly finished the program but I was struggling to get certain credits. And last winter, there I lay, stiff in bed, curled under layers of sheets protecting a body of glass. I wondered, “would I disappoint my father and myself by taking a break from school? Would I be a fool if I decided never to go back?” I was also very embarrassed for taking too long to finish school. These were all mind-traps created by me, inspired by expectations of my environment.

I gave myself an entire summer to think it over. Didn’t take long to decide; I was mostly building up the courage to tell my family I’d be putting my education on pause. When I’d find the strength to get out of bed, I was on the floor, squatting, sitting or laying down. Nerves flying through the roof. Frantically mapping out my year in plans A, B, C, and D, until I exhausted my options. It was a very sad time.

Proven Coping Methods

While I was in school, there were ways I tried to cope with the stress. I lessened my courseload from five classes per semester to four. I sought help from therapists at the health & wellness centre. Once, I asked an instructor for more time on a project. I ended up speaking with the centre for disabilities at my school, and they offered to help in various ways: providing a quiet space to do exams, allowing extra time for all tests and assignments, getting tested for learning disabilities if you think you have one (costs $$$ though, but is partially covered by the school’s health insurance), and other things that I can’t remember now. You surely have a centre for students with disabilities at your school. You don’t have to have a recorded disability to ask for help, but they help students who are really struggling. Rules might be different at each school, though. These methods all helped me. What ultimately led to my demise was a matter of not having any more money for my education and my basic needs.

Evaluating the Situation

Maybe you’re slipping through coursework. It’s not due to laziness, but because you’re stressed out or feel lost. Maybe your body is present in class but your mind is not, despite not having any distractions in front of you. Perhaps you’re not even sure that you want to continue with school at all. Well then, it’s okay to give yourself a break. Things need to be thought through thoroughly. But you also need to breathe, and not think at all about your worries every moment of every day. When we’re anxious and depressed we think a lot. Our brains have a hard time shutting off. And that can be hard. But it’s worth a try.

Be Extra Careful

I can’t stress enough the importance of planning out your schedule or your leave with an academic advisor. It may be in your best interest to also speak with a therapist at school about everything that is going on. Weighing out the pros and cons of staying and leaving is also best. Thinking decisions through thoroughly and seeking guidance is crucial.

The best lesson I learned from my break is to never get caught in pressures put on by our environment–family, society, friends, coworkers, etc. We must make decisions to the benefit of ourselves. We might have been put on this earth for a reason, but pleasing others isn’t one of them.

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4 Simple Methods To Manage Anxiety Attacks

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At the moment of an anxiety attack, your reasoning goes out the window. Thoughts race, and any attempt to catch up to them is as good as none. If you’re like me, you may experience shortness of breath as you watch the world tumble before you. Negative thoughts are hard to control during anxiety/panic attacks, but over time I’ve learned to incorporate certain techniques to lessen their impact. There’s no quick fix to get rid of frequent, intense levels of anxiety, but I believe in holistic practices that help us manage them so they become less frequent. (I have high levels of anxiety less frequently now, but it is easily triggered by financial worries, huge crowds, self-consciousness, and other triggers that get me worried about my future.) These tricks work by slowing down the whole process of an attack:

Deep Abdominal Breathing

Taking deep breaths helps reduce anxiety attacks by allowing you to be more present with your thoughts. For me, it’s as if I’m giving myself time to think about why I’m feeling this way, and it just allows me to calm down a bit. Here’s how to do it: Inhale deeply from your diaphragm as soon as you realize you’re having an anxiety attack, and exhale deeply. Do it on the spot discretely, in through the nose and out the same way.

A Gentle Pep Talk

You can repeat to yourself, in your mind,“I recognize this emotion, but I am not this emotion,” until you calm down. It might take a while before that happens, so be patient. Separating yourself from the feeling of anxiousness tricks your brain into observing the experience as something that is simply happening to you, and not something that is part of your identity. In other words, you are not an anxious person, but you are experiencing anxiety at the moment.

Take One Step at a Time

Last year I went through a major depressive episode spanning the length of that entire year.  Summer was rock-bottom, but to the advice of my counselor at the time, I pushed myself to start taking walks outside. Sometimes I would get seriously nervous about going, so I started telling myself I just needed to get downstairs to the building’s main entrance. I wouldn’t walk too far, and that was key for me. This method is for when you are too anxious to move and get yourself anywhere. If the task is broken down into small steps or miniature goals, you’ll find it easier to push through the anxiety.

Don’t Feel Guilty

I used to feel guilty about my sensitivity; actually, while my self-judgement isn’t as bad as it was before, feeling guilty is still something I need to work on. But everyone’s level of sensitivity to environments and situations is different. We also carry experiences from our past that may make us feel the way we do. It’s totally okay if you can’t handle being somewhere like an overcrowded bus, or a funeral, or a call centre while your friend can!

All that is important is that we manage our emotions.

How To Go Outside Despite Depression

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Summer is here. Try taking a walk. The sun gives your skin vitamin D, which plays a role in the improvement (and cause) of depression. Studies show that the liver and kidney transform vitamin D into a hormone that aids in the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. A deficiency in vitamin D can cause depression, especially during colder months–you may have already heard of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Besides, you know what else is great about summer? The smell of sweet green grass and scented flowers. Butterflies and moths fluttering around on their breathtaking wings. Trees shivering when meeting the breeze. Birds singing, and finally seeing something other than a pigeon or a seagull. You know, a bird that’s actually nice to look at.

You don’t have to go far, and you can start out once or twice a week.  You don’t need running shoes or workout gear. You only need yourself. You can bring music with you if you think you fear being stuck in your thoughts or bored.

Decide that you can at least do this one thing today for yourself. When you get back home, and maybe crawl back into bed, you’ll be glad that you got your body to move a little bit. You may even be energized and want to do a little more with your day.

The first few weeks can be hard to motivate yourself to go outside. Here is what helps me:

  • Having a destination: there’s a mall across the street from my home. I get groceries or wander around Wal-Mart. My siblings and father also live a walking distance from me.
  • Pep talks: I tell myself, “I just need to make it downstairs and through the door.”
  • Staying in the neighborhood:  I am seriously anxious about seeing anybody I know in public places, so I stay close to home at the moment. I don’t know many people in my neighborhood, so it’s easier for me to want to leave the house and take walks here.

The sun and nature are incredibly therapeutic tools to use. I hope you find comfort in them.

Resources:

Psychological consequences of vitamin D deficiency-Psychology Today

Vitamin D: Health Benefits, Facts & Research

How can I get the vitamin D my body needs?

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